Still working to recover. Please don't edit quite yet.
An assassination market is a prediction market or dead pool where any party can place a bet (using anonymous electronic money, and pseudonymous remailers) on the date of death of a given individual, and collect a payoff if they "guess" the date accurately. This would incentivise assassination of individuals because the assassin, knowing when the action would take place, could profit by making an accurate bet on the time of the subject's death. Because the payoff is for knowing the date rather than performing the action of the assassin, it is substantially more difficult to assign criminal liability for the assassination.
Origin of the concept
An early use of the term can be found in the Cyphernomicon by Timothy C. May, published around October 1994. Jim Bell's later article Assassination Politics described the concept in detail, concluding that as well as being an "unholy mix of encryption, anonymity, and digital cash", the concept could also be used to help minimize violent crime. Timothy C. May, Carl Johnson and Matthew Taylor later developed the protocols to implement the concept online to the point that the IRS, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service investigated their motives for doing so. Jim Bell is currently imprisoned by the federal government of the United States. The US Secret Service circulated copies of 'Assassination Politics' and the relevant Wired articles in 2002. ( Source FOI act copies of documents) During investigations authorities pretended to be sympathizers in emails, posed as ISP representatives and sought Soviet style psychiatric repressionTemplate:vague in at least one case.
It has been argued that the feasibility of Assassination Politics, precludes the development of any form of anonymous electronic money. Nation-states are capable either of arresting and prosecuting those underwriting such hypothetical payment systems as accessories to these crimes, or where the underwriters' assets are offshore, of attacking underwriters or underwriting assets using military options. This follows from the fact that anonymous digital cash requires publicly known underwriters, e.g. banks participating in guaranteeing and forwarding payments made using a hypothetical digital cash. Potential underwriters are very unlikely to be interested in participating under these circumstances. Therefore digital cash systems offering the required degree of anonymity are equally unlikely to arise in practice because the existence of an open assassination market conflicts with a primary purpose of the nation-state, i.e. to provide military security to its government.
Application and implications
These issues arguably left the realm of the theoretical when U.S. stock markets based in Manhattan took a trillion-dollar hit in September, 2001. A serious investigation was launched in Autumn 2001 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to determine whether large blocks of short-sold airline stock could be traced back to Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the terrorist acts carried out on the 11th of September; the investigation eventually announced that the short-selling was part of a legitimate hedging strategy and unconnected to Al Qaeda or other extremist groups, but did not disclose the identities of the beneficiaries.
The extensive cooperation of militant Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups, and suggestions that they were in fact trading targets and objectives in different nations, gave rise to the idea that a covert assassination swap market may well already be in global operation. A group would perform an action in one place and a seemingly unrelated group in another place would profit from the act.
The concept of assassination politics is anticipated in Swiss playwright Friedrich DÃ¼rrenmatt's 1964 work, The Visit, in which the appearance of a wealthy benefactress in an economically stagnant small town prompts its poor citizens to purchase new luxuries on credit, all of a sinister yellow color. The woman has promised to give a huge donation to the town on the condition that a certain shopkeeper dies. More and more yellow items appear, signalling to everyone--including the target--that the townspeople are willing to enrich themselves on the promise of his death. Patricia Highsmith's novel Strangers on a Train explored the possibility of bartering murders with a stranger, but complications arose because the strangers met face-to-face, which need not occur in an assassination market.
- Re: Cyphernomicon
- McCullagh, Declan [http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,40102,00.html?tw=wn_story_page_prev2 RSS IRS Raids Cypherpunk's House]. (news report) Politics : Law. Wired. URL accessed on 2007-11-07.